Before he was the first Black justice on the US Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer who traveled the country as the NAACP's first attorney, defending innocent Black people who had been accused of crimes they didn't commit. Marshall is about one of those early cases.
In a courtroom plastered with murals of bound Native Americans, Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) defended a Black man accused of raping a wealthy white woman (Kate Hudson). Marshall wasn’t allowed to speak in the courtroom; that honor fell to his white co-counsel, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad). If this case were tried today, we’d know the cards were stacked against them—but this took place in the 1940s, when schools were legally segregated and Black people were still at the back of the bus.
There are a few weird things about Marshall. The first weird thing is that it’s... funny? Boseman and Gad are both great, and the smarmy DA (Dan Stevens) is deliciously hittable. Combined with a hefty dash of righteousness, this all makes for some unexpectedly entertaining moviegoing.
The second weird thing about Marshall—which is notably less delightful than the first—is that a large part of the film focuses on proving that a woman lied about being raped. This is gross, no matter how much we're rooting for the defendant.
And finally, it’s weird that the white guy does all the talking, right? In a movie made in 2017? I mean, I know that’s one of the injustices we’re meant to witness, but Marshall is the guy on the poster! Let him talk! Wasn't there a single other compelling case in his early days that they could have made a movie about? Maybe one where Marshall could actually speak?
Of course, it’s ignorant of me to propose cherry-picking pieces of history in order make a film more palatable to my fragile white eyes. So go ahead and strike that complaint—as Marshall proves, a movie can be entertaining AND complicated.